Cyber Wars: ‘Anonymous’ Hacker Group Declares War On WikiLeaks’ Censorers
A hacker collective, identified as ‘Anonymous’, has declared war on WikiLeaks’ censorers. The group has earned itself a reputation in the tech world for targeting the entertainment and software security industries who lobby for pro-Copyright (anti-piracy) laws.
The controversial UK Digital Economy Act, passed June 8, 2010, which liberal critics claim is “too heavily weighted in favour of the big corporations and those who are worried about too much information becoming available,” stoked the ire of the hacker group. ZDNet reports the group’s attacks only began after an Indian security group called AiPlex Software launched distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) assaults on file-sharing sites:
Anonymous responded with its own DDoS attacks in a campaign called ‘Operation Payback’, first targeting the websites of US rights holder groups the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), then turning to smaller companies such as AiPlex and UK law firms who act on behalf of rights holders.
With all the recent DDoS attacks and corporate complicity in bringing down WikiLeaks, the hacker collective decided to take a little break from their usual activities to lend a hand to WikiLeaks. They redirected their angst towards those companies assisting the US government in shutting WikiLeaks down. The group claimed in a tweet, thirty minutes ago:
I should probably clarify something. I’m not anti-government, anti-establishment, or anything of that sort. I’m just anti-…anti-Wikileaks.
WikiLeaks was dealt a crucial blow on Friday when online payment service provider PayPal terminated WikiLeaks’ account, thereby closing its principal method for receiving financial donations from supporters. PayPal additionally froze 61K EUR held by the whistle blower group. Meanwhile, in Switzerland, The Swiss Bank Post Finance announced today that it has frozen “Julian Assange’s defense fund and personal assets (31K EUR) after reviewing him as a ‘high profile’ individual.”
‘Anonymous’ immediately set its sites on PayPal, and in particular its PayPal blog. Their DDoS attack on PayPal’s blog “lasted for 8 hours (not including the time where the website resolved to a 403 error) and caused the blog to experience 75 service interruptions.” The groups insists that ‘Operation Payback’ still remains in effect, despite their recent shift in attacks in support of WikiLeaks.
The ‘Anonymous’ organizers explained their rationale for lending a helping hand to WikiLeaks:
“While we don’t have much of an affiliation with WikiLeaks, we fight for the same: we want transparency (in our case in copyright) and we counter censorship. The attempts to silence WikiLeaks are long strides closer to a world where we can not say what we think and not express how we feel. We can not let this happen, that is why we will find out who is attacking WikiLeaks and with that find out who tries to control our world. What we are going to do when we found them? Except for the usual DDoSing, word will be spread that whoever tries to silence or discourage WikiLeaks, favors world domination rather than freedom and democracy.”
Amazon Web Services and EveryDNS.net — both companies who dropped WikiLeaks as a customer last week — are thought to be the next prime targets for ‘Anonymous’.
Meanwhile WikiLeaks has announced their servers in Sweden are once again under DDoS attack, and that the UK has now received a new warrant for Julian Assange’s arrest, and may issue it shortly. ZDNet UK reports:
The Press Association said that Scotland Yard had received the paperwork for Assange’s arrest under a European Arrest Warrant (EAW) from Sweden. Assange is believed to be in the south-east of England.
The arrest warrant was first issued in November, but was rejected by the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca), which processes EAWs on legal grounds. A second was sent on Friday, according to the BBC. Assange is wanted under charges of ‘sex by surprise’ with two Swedish women, a charge which only seems to exist in Sweden.
A Soca spokesman declined to say whether the agency had passed an arrest warrant to the Metropolitan Police.
“We cannot confirm or deny whether an arrest warrant has been received, or sent on to Scotland Yard,” said the spokesman.
In the event Assange is arrested, he has promised a ‘poison pill’ in retaliation:
Julian Assange has distributed to fellow hackers an encrypted ‘poison pill’ of damaging secrets, thought to include details on BP and Guantanamo Bay.
He believes the file is his ‘insurance’ in case he is killed, arrested or the whistleblowing website is removed permanently from the internet.
Mr Assange – understood to be lying low in Britain – could be arrested by Scotland Yard officers as early as tomorrow.
Stay tuned …
I found the ‘Anonymous’ hacker group’s website entitled Operation:Payback for those interested in learning more about what they advocate for:
AnonOps: Fighting for freedom on the Internet!
We are an anonymous, decentralized movement which fights against censorship and copywrong. […]
Here is the group’s: Operation Avenge Assange manifesto.
The Guardian: Julian Assange To Be Questioned By British Police
Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, is expected to appear in a UK court tomorrow after his lawyers said he would meet police to discuss a European extradition warrant from Sweden relating to alleged sexual assaults. […]
Mark Stephens, attorney for Julian Assange, told NBC that “No representation from Sweden will be in that meeting”.
The Guardian: Julian Assange Is Arrested And Due To Appear In Court
- WikiLeaks will continue releasing the leaked US embassy cables in spite of his arrest this morning. […]
- Assange has also pre-recorded a video message, which WikiLeaks is due to release today. But the Guardian understands the organisation has no plans to release the insurance file of the remaining cables, which number more than 200,000. It has sent copies of the encrypted file to supporters around the world. These can be accessed only by using a 256-digit code. […]
War Crimes Catch Up With Israeli Officials: They Can No Longer Visit The UK
Ha’aretz is now confirming that the United Kingdom had in fact issued a warrant for former Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni’s arrest — for alleged war crimes committed during Israel’s Gaza offensive, called ‘Operation Cast Lead’:
British sources reported late Monday that though a British court had issued an arrest warrant for Livni over war crimes allegedly committed in Gaza while she served as foreign minister, it annulled it upon discovering she was not in the U.K.
Livni served as foreign minister alongside Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak during the Israel Defense Forces offensive in Gaza. The three figures comprised the “troika” of top decision-makers who charted the course of the war.
The Guardian points out the significance of this arrest warrant, and goes on to explain that former Israeli leaders (no longer serving) lose their diplomatic immunity granted under the State Immunity Act:
The warrant marks the first time an Israeli minister or former minister has faced arrest in the UK and is evidence of a growing effort to pursue war crimes allegations under “universal jurisidiction”. Israel rejects these efforts as politically motivated, saying it acted in self-defence against Hamas rocket attacks from Gaza. […]
It is the second time in less than three months that lawyers have gone to Westminster magistrates court asking for a warrant for the arrest of an Israeli politician. In September the court was asked to issue one for the arrest of Ehud Barak, Israel’s defence minister, under the 1988 Criminal Justice Act, which gives courts in England and Wales universal jurisdiction in war crimes cases.
Barak, who was attending a meeting at the Labour party conference in Brighton, escaped arrest after the Foreign Office told the court that he was a serving minister who would be meeting his British counterparts. The court ruled he enjoyed immunity under the State Immunity Act 1978.
According to Israeli sources, ministers who wish to visit the UK in a personal capacity have begun asking the Israeli embassy in London to arrange meetings with British officials. These offer legal protection against arrest.
Livni, crucially, cannot enjoy any such immunity as she is an ex-minister. Ehud Olmert, the former prime minister, is in the same position.
The Associated Press recalls how this universal jurisdiction concept was cited by Spain in arresting Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in 1998, and how this precedent has given activists in other countries inspiration to petition international courts to try officials for alleged war crimes. Chris Doyle, director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding, tells the AP:
“This pleases those who believe that Israeli leaders long have violated international norms with impunity. […] We cannot talk tough on terrorism and be weak on war crimes,” Doyle said. “So I think the use of universal jurisdiction in these cases is a good thing. Parties in Israel must realize there is a consequence to their behavior. For decades they’ve violated Security Council resolutions and international law with little or no consequence,” he said.
Other Israeli officals have also been forced to cancel their trips to the United Kingdom after being tipped off of possible war crimes arrest warrants:
In 2005 a retired Israeli general, Doron Almog, returned to Israel immediately after landing in London because he was tipped off that British police planned to arrest him. The warrant against Almog — who oversaw the 2002 bombing of a Gaza home in which 14 people were killed along with a leading Palestinian militant — was later canceled.
Other Israeli leaders, including former military chief Moshe Yaalon and ex-internal security chief Avi Dichter, have canceled trips to Britain in recent years for the same reason.
The Guardian now reports that Israel is responding to Tzipi Livni’s war crimes warrant by imposing an Israeli government travel ‘ban’:
Israel hit back at Britain today over the arrest warrant issued for former foreign minister Tzipi Livni for alleged war crimes, warning that until the matter was resolved senior officials would not be visiting the UK.
Israelis prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, called the warrant absurd, the Ynet website reported.
The British ambassador, Tom Phillips, was summoned to the foreign ministry in Jerusalem where a senior Israeli official told him the row over Livni meant that Britain’s ability to play a role in the Middle East peace process had been damaged.
Perhaps Israel would be better served by taking the advice of its own Deputy Prime Minister, who told Ha’aretz:
Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor thinks Israel should establish its own independent committee to investigate Israel Defense Forces activity in the Gaza Strip during last winter’s Operation Cast Lead.
“I have faith in the army and it is my duty to protect it, its commanders and its soldiers – and the most effective tool for this is serious self-examination,” Meridor said in a recent interview with Haaretz. “A state that examines itself [protects itself from] harassment. Today, with the development of international law, one of the best means of defense is for a state to investigate itself.”
Which is exactly what Richard Goldstone has been saying, all along:
“I certainly hope that there will be sufficient drive within Israel, within the government and in the general public to force the Israeli government to set up an independent, open inquiry. And it can do it. It’s got a wonderful legal system, its got a great judicial system, its got retired judges who certainly, in my book, would earn the respect of the overwhelming number of people around the world, including the Arab world, who, if they held open, good faith inquiries, would put an end to this.”
Countries which consider themselves to be intrinsically ‘exceptional’ — immune from obeying international laws, and thumb their noses at allegations as serious as war crimes — will naturally become viewed as pariah states.
Now if we could just get someone to investigate Bush Administration war crimes …